People who are desperate to get rid of the germs from their outrageously dirty phones might be tempted to buy an $ 80 UV disinfection booth. And while certain wavelengths of UV light are great for killing microorganisms, including COVID-19, you might be better off cleaning your phone the old fashioned way.

Do UV disinfectants actually work?

Scientists have discovered that sunlight can limit the growth of microorganisms in 1877, almost 150 years ago. It turns out that UV radiation does a decent job of destroying and damaging DNA. And while we’re not on the verge of solving a pandemic by opening our windows, we can sterilize some items using specially designed UV bulbs.

The UV bulbs in question do not look like the black lights you buy at party stores. They use a particularly vicious form of UV light called UVC, which does a remarkable job of destroying genetic material. Our eyes and skin are protected from the sun’s UVC rays from the earth’s atmosphere. But within the confines of a UVC phone sanitizer, bacteria and viruses don’t stand that chance.

So the answer is yes, UV phone sanitizers can kill germs. New experiences suggest UVC can kill COVID-19, and long-term studies prove the technology can reliably destroy SARS, a strain of coronavirus. Does this mean that a UV phone sanitizer is worth buying? Eeeehhhhhhhhh …

Is UV light more convenient or efficient than chemicals?

A photo of some UVC lamps.
Neither Gal / Shutterstock

There is no doubt that UVC light can kill germs. But high-quality UV phone sanitizers sell for around $ 80, while quick-acting, general-purpose chemicals like rubbing alcohol are completely free. (Don’t bleach your phone!) Tech supporters will say you pay extra for convenience, but is that really the case?

It all depends on your cleaning habits. Are you the type of person who comes home, washes your hands, wipes everything and washes your hands for good measure? If so, wiping your phone with your other belongings would take less time than using UVC disinfectant.

But even if a UV disinfectant fits perfectly into your routine, the technology isn’t as effective as an alcohol-based cleanser. Maybe “efficient” isn’t the right word – the problem is that cracks, ports, and dirt specs on your phone can protect germs from UV light bath. If you are concerned that microorganisms are brewing in these spaces, you should clean your phone with alcohol or supplement your UV cleaning with occasional wiping.

I’m not saying UV sanitizers are totally unnecessary or impractical, it’s just hard to justify the price, especially if you’re buying for a family. Maybe you want to use a phone sanitizer as a nighttime cleaning tool for your phone, but if you’re seriously concerned about bacteria and viruses, it may be easier to just leave a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a clean rag in your kitchen. counter. It is certainly cheaper. And while disinfectants for mobile phones can help you sanitize your phone on the go, 70% alcohol swabs are cheaper, smaller and do not need to be recharged.

And yes, I know Amazon sells cheap phone sanitizers for as little as $ 40, but I suggest you avoid low-cost brands altogether. Most of the cheap phone sanitizers on Amazon were listed during March or April and have not been lab tested (high-end brands like PhoneSoap have been tested). Do you trust an anonymous company trying to cash in on a pandemic with unregulated and untested sanitation tools? Probably not, but you can trust the good old fashioned rubbing alcohol.

The best alternative: rubbing alcohol

A photo of someone cleaning the phone with a cloth and alcohol.
Nitiphonphat / Shutterstock

UV disinfectants are fine. They do their job, and they’re worth it if you’re willing to spend the money. But for most people, it’s best to stick with conventional cleaning products. Bleach is a bit too abrasive and doesn’t vaporize very quickly, so I suggest using rubbing alcohol instead.

According to the CDC, solutions containing at least 70% alcohol will properly kill, disinfect your electronic devices, and kill the coronavirus. You can use rubbing alcohol, disinfectant spray, or alcohol-based wipes, but no hand sanitizer. I suggest using pure alcohol, as it doesn’t contain any additional chemicals or fragrances that could damage your phone. (Amazon does not have bottles of rubbing alcohol at this time, but these 70% alcohol swabs will work fine. It’s just alcohol and water.)

You don’t need to soak your phone to clean it with alcohol. Simply apply a little alcohol to a microfiber cloth (or paper towel, clean cloth, or tissue paper) and gently wipe your phone. Make sure to clean your phone case and any areas usually covered by the case. You can use an alcohol-soaked toothbrush to clean the inside of the ports, but be gentle and don’t scrub.

Now this is the part where I give you bad news. See, the glass on your phone has something called a “oleophobic coatingWhich is a slippery glaze resistant to grease and grime. This coating does not protect your phone from cracks or scratches, but it Is keep your phone shiny and smudge-free. Excessive cleaning with rubbing alcohol and other abrasives can accelerate the wear and tear of your phone’s oleophobic coating, leaving you with a screen’s fingerprint magnet.

Still, losing the oleophobic coating is not a big deal. These coatings, which do not protect your phone from cracks or scratches, wear out naturally and are easy to replace. And hey, if you’re using a screen protector, you don’t have to worry about the coating at all. But if you’re a daredevil who hates screen protectors and doesn’t want to reapply an oleophobic coating, then a UV sanitizer could be worth the $ 80.


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